By Daniel Berthold
This book explores different conceptualizations of the responsibilities of the author to the reader. It also engages the question of what styles of authorship allow these responsibilities to be met. The two writers who serve as the main subjects for this work, the German idealist philosopher G. W. F. Hegel and the Danish Christian existentialist Soren Kierkegaard, invite us to confront particularly challenging questions about the ethics of authorship. Each in his own way explores styles of authorship that employ a variety of strategies of seduction in order to entice the reader into his narratives, strategies that at least on the surface appear to be fundamentally manipulative and unethical. Further, both seek to enact their own deaths as authors, effectively disappearing as reliable guides for the reader. That might also seem to be ethically irresponsible--an abandonment of the reader, who has been seduced only to be deserted. The book argues that there is an either/or between Hegel and Kierkegaard, just not the one Kierkegaard proposes as between an author devoid of ethics and one who makes possible a true ethics of authorship. Rather, the either/or is between two competing practices of authorship, one daunting with the cadences of a highly technical style, the other delightful for its elegance and playfulness-- but both powerful experiments in the ethics of style.